The Poetry of Muhsin Ilyas Subaşı


for Katharine Branning

So many caravans have entered your doors with anticipation

So many voyagers have left their dreams in your courtyard

What stories do they tell, the stars that kiss your forehead each night

And the roads that pass in front of you each day?

Kayseri Sultan Han, 1232-36


Homesickness and the melancholy of exile

Are loaded on their backs every day of the year

Past and future hide in the shadows of your monumental door

Welcoming and bidding adieu day to a thousand desires.

The Seljuks placed their very souls in your domes

Travelers filled your halls with their trusting faith

And so it was that your destiny grew,

But now, your visitors are none!





                   -Katharine Branning Hanımefendiye;


Kaç kervan umutla girer kapından,

Seyyahlar gönlünde hülyaya dalar.

Yıldızlar her gece öper alnından,

Ne söyler önünden geçen bu yollar?


Sıla özlemini, gurbet hüznünü,

Yüklenir sırtına yılın her günü,

Saklarken taç kapın yarını-dünü,

Her gün bin umutla boşalır, dolar…


Selçuklu kubbene gönlünü koymuş,

Yolcular sofranda umuda doymuş,

Senin de kaderin demek ki buymuş,

Artık ne gelenin, ne gidenin var!..



The poet and historian Muhsin Ilyas Subaşi relates the following anecdote relative to the Kayseri Sultan Han in his book on the history of Kayseri (Dünden Bugüne Kayseri, Kayseri: Kivilcim Yayinevi, 2003; p. 92-94.)

"Any aggression to travelers on the roads of my lands is an aggression to my very own honor!"

bellowed the Sultan to his Grand Vizier.  And thusly the order was given to the Grand Vizier to construct a series of caravansarays between the larger cities of the kingdom, in order to ensure the safety and comfort of the travelers on the roads in the lands under his charge.

"You will build hans worthy of both me and my ancestors, worthy of both their kingdom and mine. One han shall be built at a day's journey to the east of Kayseri, that is to say at the place at the end of one full day of travel, and another shall be built in the same manner to the west of the city. Make sure that they are built as solidly as a fortress so that our enemies can see that we are stronger than they are, and that they are under the shadow of our swords should they cause harm to anyone!" continued the Sultan.

The Grand Vizier nodded. "So shall your orders be granted, my Sultan," he said, leaving the room. He immediately gathered together the best workmen, and gave them their instructions. Several of them were to start that very day on the construction of a han near Tushisar, and the others were to start on a site on the Kayseri road near Aksaray.

But the Grand Vizier Celaleddin Karatay, who had been given the responsibility to oversee these two projects, thought to himself: "The Sultan has ordered the building of these two hans, and I am but a humble servant in his shadow. Still, I am the second most powerful man in the kingdom and because of this I should not remain totally excluded from this endeavor. These hans shall become my monuments as well." And thus he established a plan to build his very own han southeast of Kayseri, in the present-day village of Karadayi.

The monuments commissioned by Sultan Alaeddin Keykubad were completed in the year 1236.  They came to be known by his subjects as the "Sultan Hans", and their doors were opened to all. 


One spring evening, the Sultan Alaeddin Keykubad gathered his viziers together in his palace at Keykubadiyye. He explained to them the responsibilities he expected of them concerning the services and operations of these hans.

"My knights, it is our duty to provide a sign of the respect and the consideration we hold for the personal safety of the foreign and local travelers on our lands, as well as for their goods. If a caravan or its travelers should be attacked and their goods plundered on our roads, it is to be considered a violation of our very own personal honor. You must show no mercy to the bandits, brigands, and thieves on our roads. You must designate men to constantly tend to these roads so that all travelers who use them will always feel welcomed. Every traveler in our hans is to be my guest for three days, and no fee is to be charged to those who remain for that length of time. Their hungry stomachs are to be filled with meals paid for from my very own purse. Medical treatment will be provided for any illnesses, and their cleanliness will be assured by my hammams. Their horses will be shod, and their lame and tired animals replaced. At the end of three days, their repaired shoes will be placed in front of their door. They can then choose to leave or to remain, and if they do stay, a small daily fee will be charged. This honorable tradition has come down to us from our Central Asian ancestors, and we are thus beholden to continue this same custom as we spread our culture westwards…..We must not fail in this duty to carry on the principles which formed the base of our sultanate. For once defects and bad habits are incorporated into the kingdom we are building, it will be difficult to remove them from the character of the people of this nation. And this heavy responsibility is our duty to ensure. In this we must be very vigilant….."

After the viziers left the meeting, the wisdom of the Sultan's words became very evident to them. And so instructions to fulfill his orders were sent out by special couriers to those in charge of the caravansarais. Their doors were opened for business, and the people started to live in the light of a new and secure era….



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